The outdoors can kill ya: Essentials for a day hike

Umm, what happened to the trail?

We went on a hike a few weeks ago and were totally unprepared.

No, it wasn’t an overnight backpacking trip or a backcountry excursion; it was a short hike on an established trail a few miles from home.

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Anchorage, Alaska: Yup, we visited Blockbuster Video and Russell Crowe’s jockstrap

Blockbuster Video, Anchorage Alaska

So this happened: While visiting one of the last Blockbusters in America, I had the opportunity to hold Russell Crowe’s “groin protector” (i.e., jockstrap), and it’s all thanks to comedian John Oliver (and Mr. Crowe himself).

Here’s the story:
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Adak, Alaska: Eagles amongst the ruins

We’ve just returned from Adak, Alaska, a place that is equal parts rotting civilization and pristine wilderness.  You wouldn’t think the two could co-exist, but they do, in Adak, as evidenced by the the 300 or so bald eagles that call the island home.  Not only did we see them soaring high in the air and gliding near the water’s surface, but they also perched on the eaves of  decaying buildings and rusted street signs.  It was both beautiful and jarring.

Adak, Alaska
A collapsed home or barracks, complete with bunkbed frames

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Katmai National Park, Alaska: Photos from a float plane

Alaska Peninsula as seen from a plane

Like most visitors, Dale and I took a floatplane to Brooks Camp, which is in Katmai National Park and can only be reached by air or water.

Dale had been on a floatplane before, but this was my first time on such a unique form of transport, and it was very, very cool.  When the experience starts out with a photo-op like this, it’s gotta be great, right?

Me on the float plane headed to Katmai
Me, standing on the pontoon of the plane that would take us to Brooks Camp.  And yes, I do feel like a badass.

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Homer to Seldovia, Alaska: A whale of a trip across Kachemak Bay

Kachemak Bay, Alaska
Gull Island, with the Kenai Mountains as a backdrop

In a recent post, we talked about our trip to Seldovia, a remote town that can only be reached by air or water.  There are several options for getting there, and we chose the Seldovia Wildlife Tour, a sightseeing excursion with Rainbow Tours.

This boat tour, which was seven hours round-trip from Homer to Seldovia and back, took us across Kachemak Bay, an incredibly rich habitat that supports many wildlife species, from sea birds to sea otters, seals, and porpoise as well as whales.  And the view—of the glacier-carved Kenai Mountains—is spectacular.

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Seldovia, Alaska: Artists with chainsaws and a carving competition

While in Seldovia, we watched as five master carvers used chainsaws to transform blocks of wood into amazing pieces of art.  The Seldovia Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition, held annually on Labor Day weekend, was happening while we were there, and it was a treat to witness these unique artists in action. Continue reading “Seldovia, Alaska: Artists with chainsaws and a carving competition”

A weekend in charming Seldovia, Alaska

Seldovia, Alaska
Chainsaw carving (Artist: Derrick Stanton)

Seldovia isn’t on an island, but it might as well be—it’s practically surrounded by water, it can only be reached by plane or boat, and its single main street is lined with small businesses owned by locals, with nary a fast food joint to be found.  The minute we stepped off the boat, I felt myself relaxing into the place.  We were in the hands of the locals, and the stresses of daily life were behind us.  There was no place to be and nothing urgent to attend to.  The only thing missing was my flip flops (it was too chilly); otherwise, the trip was perfect.

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Seward, Alaska: Alaska SeaLife Center

Harbor seal, Alaska SeaLife Center
Harbor seal, Alaska SeaLife Center

From the parking lot outside of the Alaska SeaLife Center, one can hear a variety of sounds; the sea birds screech and call, and the sea lions, if they’re outside, bark raucously.  Eagles, which often perch on posts outside the center, may add their plaintive call to the din.

All manner of sea creatures have found a home in Seward’s SeaLife Center, and the cacophony outside the complex gives visitors a preview of what’s to come.  We became members shortly after moving to Seward and have enjoyed frequent visits ever since, looking in on the residents and learning more about the amazing place in which we live.  The SeaLife Center does important work, not only educating the public through the state’s only public aquarium but also undertaking marine research and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

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Katmai National Park: Bear 410, queen of the bear jam

Brooks Camp, Bear 410
Sleeping beauty

No blog series about the bears of Katmai would be complete without a profile of 410.

Any bear at Brooks Camp has the capacity to cause a human traffic jam (see our recent post), but Bear 410 (nicknamed “Four Ton” because she’s one of the largest females in the park) goes above and beyond.  So renowned is her ability to shut things down that she’s been called “queen of the bear jams.” Continue reading “Katmai National Park: Bear 410, queen of the bear jam”

Katmai National Park: Brooks Camp bear jams

What they are, and how to survive ’em

Brooks Camp, bears at the Point
Bears at the Point, (probably) unaware of the disruption they’re causing
“Point, you’re going to want to retreat; Point, you need to retreat.”

During the day, park rangers stood sentry at various places throughout Brooks Camp, monitoring bear activity and sharing details with one another via radio.  We were on the Lower River Platform, and the ranger had his binoculars trained on a spot across the Brooks River known as the Point.  He was letting his counterpart know that a bear was headed their way.

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